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Full text of "G. K. Chesterton"

G.  K.   CHESTERTON                            25

and qualities of his life were the only accidents and qualities
needed for the survival of civilization.

But there was a yet deeper compensation in Chesterton's
art. The fashion of the day among advanced thinkers was
to profess extreme democratic theories, but at the same time
to profess equally extreme contempt for the opinions and
prejudices of the ordinary man. The clearest example of
this was, of course, that of Bernard Shaw, who denounced
almost every one of the ordinary habits and pastimes of the
Englishman of his time  who would neither allow him to
work or play, to eat or drink, to spell or to speak as he was
accustomed, Chesterton in reaction from this presented
himself as the champion of the ordinary man, prepared to
accept him, not asking to reform

Who will write us a riding song, ora Hunting song,
or a drinking song ?/
he asks. The championsmp was cettainiy perfectly genuine.
But, of course, though nis tastes may have been those of
the ordinary man, his method of expression was by no
means that of the ordinary man. He expressed himself
almost invariably in the famous Chestertonian paradox, the
formula of which was to take a common saying and invert
it, standing it on itself. Thus in his Napoleon of Notting
Hill, which he addresses to * The Human Race to which so
many of my readers belong *, in an imaginary history of
the future he takes tendencies which he finds in the early
twentieth century around him and fantastically exaggerates
them :
But the way the prophets of the twentieth century went to
work was this. They took something or other that was
certainly going on in their time, and then said that it would go
on more and more until something extraordinary happened.
And very often they added that in some odd place that extra-
ordinary thing had happened, and that it showed signs of the
Thus, for instance, there were Mr. H. G. Wells and others,